Heart Coffee Roasters' Acid Test

Local coffee obsessives master the science of a brighter bean.

By Hanna Neuschwander July 1, 2013 Published in the July 2013 issue of Portland Monthly

For a full-bodied brew with the natural oils intact, try Coava’s locally made Kone Coffee Filters, designed for Chemex Coffeemakers. $60 at ablebrewing.com

EVEN IN A COFFEE landscape awash with nano-batch roasters, Heart Coffee Roasters manages to stand out with lush, herbal, nuanced brews anchored by a citrusy brightness. “Coffee without acidity?” says Heart owner Wille Yli-Luoma, scrunching his nose. “It’s like flat beer. Uck.”

Yli-Luoma seeks beans from Africa and Latin America with big but balanced acidity, competing with boutique roasters from Asia and Scandinavia for small lots from some of the world’s top farms. His lighter-than-average roasting style is designed to showcase the beans’ complexity, rather than cooking it away. By keeping his menu tight—usually no more than four single-origins at once—he’s able to run each coffee through a meticulous process that involves relentless roasting, sipping, and tweaking. Gathered around the tasting table at its East Burnside roaster and shop, Heart’s tiny team slurps versions of the same coffee every day to record the minute variations in taste. They then apply their notes to computer-generated models to hone subtle flavors.

These days, you can find Heart’s beans grinding away in cafés from Brooklyn to LA. “Heart roasts light incredibly well, which is rare,” says Charles Babinski of G&B Coffee in Los Angeles. “They get a complex articulation of acidity every time—they always nail it.” Taste the difference in these three perfect-for-summer roasts


Ethiopia Yukro

Most of the coffee from this cooperative in western Ethiopia grows in wild thickets. Like a forest, this coffee has layers—an understory of sweet, dark molasses flavor covered by a black-tea-and-chocolate canopy, crowned with delicate citrus. Drink it black.

Ethiopia Honda Oli

Coffee from the Honda Oli cooperative is grown only five miles from Yukro, but its flavor is a world apart. Layered on bass notes of milk chocolate is a lively lemon-lime essence. Excellent for iced or cold-brewed coffee.

Kenya Gichathaini

Skip the OJ with breakfast. Excellent African coffees like this one taste more like fruit juice— ripe berries, apple, lemon, and sugar—than the breakfast blend you might be used to.

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